Some paradoxical approach could be used with almost any
unwanted thought, action, or feeling. The goal is to reduce the
behavior, ironically by increasing some related behavior.
The most common behaviors treated with paradoxical methods are
compulsions, obsessions, perfectionism, insomnia, fears, anxiety,
repetitive unhappy family interactions, and other bad habits.
STEP ONE: Make plans to take a paradoxical approach to your
As implied by the various examples given above, there are many
paradoxical techniques but they can be lumped roughly into three
Paradoxical intention --try to go in the direction opposite of
what you want or fear. This method focuses on the underlying
fear, not the surface symptom.
Trying to do the opposite of what you feel compelled to
do now, which is closer to what you really want to do in
the end. Examples: An overly orderly and perfectionistic
person should insist on experiencing the feared
messiness and failure, the student obsessed with getting
"A's" might try for some "C's" and "B's." A person afraid
of the water should go swimming 3 or 4 times a week. A
shy person should greet people, get involved, express
opinions, and generally be assertive. A folk remedy for
hiccups is to offer a dollar if the sufferer can produce 10
realistic hiccups in a row without any occurring
accidentally. Tics too have been cured by voluntarily
Trying to do the opposite of the frustrating habit or
urge, which is not what you want to end up doing.
Examples: if you want to be happier, concentrate on
learning how to be deeply depressed: feel helpless,
remember all the mistakes you've made, feel lonely and
different, and dwell on your faults and guilt. If you can't
get to sleep, change your goal: try to stay awake. If you
feel guilty about masturbating, try feeling more guilty by
masturbating twice as often as usual for a while. If you
are afraid of the dark, you should frequently, say 2 or 3
times a night, experience the darkness, not because you
want to be in the dark every night but because you want
to be less afraid.
Give up struggling for some goal. Examples: the
insomniac stops trying to go to sleep and finds